It begins with a drawing, says Krishnamoorthy, a master weaver in Kanchipuram: first by hand, then on a computer. “A weaver cum designer,” corrects Shivakumar who has been working with sarees in Kanchipuram for years. By which he means that Krishnamoorthy designs the motifs, colours and borders of sarees.
Most master weavers-cum-designers, or those aspiring to be, spend their spare time with a sketch book in hand, perfecting their drawings. The one Krishnamoorthy uses is a lovely black sketch book on which he draws with a white pen. It is a skill, one that even you can learn should you have the interest in and mind for it. What matters is proportion, which becomes second nature to weavers. Some amount of creativity is allowed, within traditional boundaries. Krishnamoorthy, for instance, has drawings of the manga and annapakshi design angled in multiple ways. Watch him here. Watch his wife Jayanthi convert drawings into graphs here
Once it is drawn on a graph paper, the designer takes it to the computer where software programs allow them to fiddle with multiple permutations and combinations.
Krishnamoorthy uses a program called Swathi Textile Designer. It allows him, with a click of the mouse to change the body of the saree from brinjal-purple colour to mithai-pin, to make the border change from coffee-bean brown to straightforward arakku-maroon, to change the motif from a rudraksham to a kodi-visiri (creeper-fan), to insert these motifs at any point in the saree.
Krishnamoorthy has a number of Kalakshetra styles in his repertoire. Designed for bharatanatyam dancers on the stage, the Kalakshetra designs have striking contrast colours, and traditional motifs. Watch the mind boggling array of designs that he has in his possession– woven into a silk cloth no less. It is here.